Guest writer Yvette Larsson recounts how she re-discovered Romania, and what were those things she took home with her.
In September 2011, I came back to Romania for the first time since 1985. 26 years had passed. One so called Revolution had taken place. A whole new generation of people had grown up in that time.
Romania is, in my eyes, like a teenager now. Trying to stand on its own values, often challenged by the input from the outside world, as distractions arrive on its way. And the distractions are many. Romania is, in my eyes, like a teenager trying to create an identity.
So, Romania: what stays with me, from the past 15 months? What are my impressions? Many will ask, why does it matter? It matters because I often find that an inaccurate picture of Romania is painted abroad and that the country is seriously misunderstood. I want to show pictures that display the beauty and meaning of Romania.
So, here’s what stayed with me:
The People. Romanians are giving and kind. They are life-embracing food-lovers. They have big hearts and are faithful friends. Tested in time and full of wisdom. Smart and intelligent. Beautiful. Men are men and women are women.
The capital Bucharest. A funky, interesting town, where the architecture is as eclectic as the life lived. There are the old Communist blocks, orthodox churches, there’s the Old Town, the French style boulevards, the French styled houses that all make this fantastic mix. I found many great places and I am still exploring.
I found the Carturesti book shop, I found the avenue Calea Victoriei. I took the metro from Piata Romana several times, and I enjoyed running the Bucharest half marathon. I discovered three different kinds of melons in a fruit market in September and I gladly tasted the first spring onions from a friends’ garden in April. I played with a Ciobanesc Mioritic dog many times and I learned to order a ceai (tea) in Romanian. I fell in love with the traditional clothing and the handicraft, from going to several markets and I just had my Swedish glögg/glue wine from ceramic cups bought at the St Nicholas Market in Bucharest in December. I went to the Km 0 – downtown Bucharest, where the Romanian revolution took place and went back in time. I looked at the new generation outside the university and went ahead in time. Maybe they are the leaders of tomorrow?
I started my blog, because I thought the world should know too, about this amazing city and country.
What else? Let’s not forget:
Cultural heritage: When visiting Romanian museums, when learning about Romanian authors, musicians, poets and painters I’m left with a feeling that this is a cultural heritage that has been hidden from the world. The names are not known to us in the West. Not voluntarily of course. First, Romania was locked under Communism, now: the world outside Romania is so little interested in the Romania of today, because of bad attitudes towards the country. There is an abundance of beauty and art to be enjoyed in Romania. I’m on a huge learning curve myself and will come back when I have more to say. Forgive my ignorance.
Spirituality: There is something spiritual about Romania. Maybe I notice it because we have become so secular in the part of the world where I am from, Scandinavia. In Romania, the Romanian Orthodox Church is very active. I’ve experienced the beautiful Easter in Bucharest. I bought the colorful eggs. I’ve visited churches in Bucharest and in Prahova Valley. What struck me is the beauty in the churches: the ornaments and the serenity. The peace. People of all ages coming to church. The routines and rituals. After being in a Romanian orthodox church, I felt relaxed and my mind was clear.
I think the belief in God must have been a strength during Communism. Keeping hope alive? Romanians are enduring people and strong in this respect.
I also associate the Romanian Orthodox church with one special priest. Father Tanase in Prahova. I met him three times and I was completely amazed by him. Amazed by his presence, courage and warmth. He set up a children’s camp and helps children, women, elderly and others who need support. My great respect to him.
There is more about spirituality. There is this interest in philosophers, the abundance of proverbs, the countryside with its well kept traditions and folklore. I have a feeling, when talking to people, especially Romanian mothers, that there is always a special natural remedy for all, and there seems to be a proverb for everything. The spoons also caught my attention. The wooden spoons. The spoons of life. They are beautiful and tell me stories about wisdom, love, birth and death. – And all in between. I love stories!
Food and drink. Should be an article on its own. How can I bottom – line food and drink? I didn’t even travel around the country much. What can I say? I love Sarmale (stuffed cabagge). I love the eggplant mix that goes with all. I love the Ciorba (soup) with beans and smoked meat, as I get it at Caru cu Bere : in a big bread. I love the freshness of fruit and vegetables from the gardens of friends. I like my Strudel cu mere from the corner shop. I like Jidvei , Feteasca Regala wines and I learned to drink white wine with sparkling water. I love to eat walnuts, crisp and fresh directly from the tree and tasty cherries in spring.
There is an abundance of great food and drink in Romania. I hope that people in Romanian will continue to buy Romanian, from Romanian farmers and producers. Support their own, instead of buying tomatoes with no taste, flown in from abroad.
At the end I would like to ask: - Does Romania want people to come and rediscover the country, just like I did?
If the answer is yes, then the first thing to do is to start changing the attitude towards Romania abroad. At the moment, the harsh reality is that Romania is not on the common travel route to most people.
Why? Because of negative attitudes. People don’t know how beautiful this country is.
By Yvette Larsson, Guest Writer